When Misallocation of Resources Perpetuates a Form of Injustice

Opening Remarks - Education Under Construction: A Policy Forum on Government School-Building Program (1 December, Oracle Hotel and Residence Katipunan)

G-Watch, as conceptualized in 2000, was a rather specialized initiative. It specialized in contract implementation monitoring as a way of curbing corruption. This was in recognition of the growing procurement-related corruption that made it urgent to make contract implementation particularly involving basic services more transparent and accountable.

G-Watch prides itself of pioneering in the Philippines what is being referred to now as social accountability or the civil society-initiated processes and mechanisms that exact accountability from governance. G-Watch’s brand of social accountability that is preventive, community-based, using easy-to-use tools, with great emphasis on data- and evidence-based reforms and employing primarily joint citizen-government monitoring led to setting up of mechanisms for transparency and accountability in critical basic service deliveries like textbooks, school-building projects and disaster relief goods. This resulted in outcomes like reduction of price, reduction of procurement period and increase in compliance to standards that arguably improve the delivery of these basic services. It also paved the way to a brand of engagement of more civil society groups with the government, a constructive engagement, which is not without conflict but with emphasis on working towards common objectives and goals towards improved governance.

Our monitoring efforts for the longest time were answering a rather simple question: Were the plans and standards followed or accomplished?  Over the years, though, this focus of our monitoring pulled us to related critical areas of governance, which if left unaddressed could render the G-Watch initiatives as mere “panakip-butas” to the flaws and loopholes in governance.

We were faced with the general question: perhaps plans and standards are followed and accomplished, but are these plans responsive to needs and desired outcomes? In textbooks, we face the question: are the textbooks delivered of quality that facilitates the learning of the students towards improved achievement ratings? In school buildings, we were asked: are the school-buildings constructed conducive to learning? are the school-buildings constructed where it is most needed?

This forum centers on the last question. In general, this forum presents our daring attempt to tackle related governance questions that have direct implication on our specialization and somehow indicates an initial step of G-Watch to be more comprehensive in exacting accountability in response to its own self-criticism and reflections on how it can enhance and deepen its contribution towards a better governance.

In particular, this endeavor that we will be presenting to you is part of the 3rd run of Bayanihang Eskwela supported by the United Nations Development Programme. Bayanihang Eskwela is a monitoring initiative of G-Watch in cooperation with DepEd, DPWH, OMB, GSP, BSP, PTCAs and other partner national and local CSOs that ensures that quality school buildings are constructed on time according to standards. BayEsk started in 2005 and has been covering selected schools with more focus on schools with acute classroom shortage. 

What we are about to present is our policy study that looks into the issue of allocation of school building projects. We stumbled upon this issue on allocation in BayEsk 2 when we found out of allocation of school-building projects in schools with no classroom shortage while noting of presence of schools with acute classroom shortage. When we investigated further, what caused this what we refer to as misallocation and its implications alarmed us. The causes and analyses will be presented thoroughly by the study. Let me say some words on the implications.

The implication on this seemingly innocent case of misallocation of projects is arguably a vicious cycle of social injustice where those who in need are further deprived because of their condition of un-having, of not having project pre-requisites such as roads, electricity, land, numbers; while those who have enough or have more are given more because of the condition of having, of being accessible, conducive and having the numbers that bring votes.

This is perhaps an exaggeration and our study is not about establishing empirical data to buttress this implication, but it doesn’t require Rocket Science to see injustice if it is committed before one's very eyes. It only requires compassion and breaking free from the numb that the systemic, widespread and institutionalized practice causes when you come face to face with it. The problem with how we allocate resources for school-building, and perhaps resources of the entire government, is that the unjust, irrational allocation due largely to pressures from particularistic interests and agenda has become a norm or has been institutionalized that the system instead of addressing problems of access, reproduces and perpetuates inequality and injustice. 

We hope to contribute in ending this form of injustice through this study. In particular, our study will show how a specific policy serves as legal basis for allocations that are not responsive to needs and are instead further aggravating the problem of acute classroom shortage. 

On behalf of the Ateneo School of Government, our Dean Antonio La Vina, we thank you for sharing this morning with us and we hope this day ends with all of us finding our own means and strength to contribute in this advocacy of taking a small, simple step towards a more just society. 

Salamat po!